By John Foley
TWO games down, three to go in this year’s U20 Six Nations championship and Tullow’s Charlie Ward is enjoying the challenges he has faced as part of Ireland’s front row over the past two weekends.
It’s all the sweeter that Ireland have won both games with Charlie making an impact from the start in the opening clash against Scotland and then playing his part from the bench on Friday night against Wales.
“It’s going really well,” Charlie says. “Over the course of the last two weeks we’ve gotten better game on game and I think there’s a lot more in us.”
The former Tullow Community School student has plenty of experience in the green jersey, having lined out for Ireland at U18 and U19 level in the past. Indeed, he would have been involved in last year’s Grand Slam-winning U20s squad only to be struck down by injury.
This year he’s back in fine fettle and determined to make an impact.
“I was nervous ahead of the Scotland game, it was such a big occasion,” says the DCU student. “Scotland were very good. They play a similar game. They were strong at the breakdown, trying to get in for poaches and they were big and physical.”
Ireland secured a 38-26 win and moved on to Friday’s second game, once again at Irish Independent Park in Cork. While Ireland built up a lead, they had to battle in the second period. Wales came back into the game and Ireland were reduced to 14 men when Joe McCarthy was sin-binned before the 36-22 win was secured.
“It was another tough game and going down to seven in the scrum wasn’t easy,” says Charlie, who came into the game as a 54th-minute substitute.
“They probably would have been targeting our scrum after watching the Scottish game. They would have put everything into trying to squeeze the energy out of us at that stage but I think we held up fairly well. It was good to grind through it and get the win.”
On both nights, Charlie was cheered on by a vocal travelling support from Tullow.
“There has been loads of family and locals from Tullow coming to watch the games and loads of people wishing me good luck as well so it’s been great.”
The challenges are coming thick and fast with an away trip to Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton on Friday week to take on England.
“I’ve never played in England before,” says Charlie. “They’re going to be really good. They’re no pushover if you can go to France and win there.”
England followed up their 29-24 win over Les Blues in week one with another hard-fought 21-17 away win in Scotland on Friday.
“There’s a good bit of travelling support coming over and a good few family too so it’ll be good to have them there for that,” Charlie says.